WAXAHACHIE — Firefighters from Red Oak and Waxahachie have joined the efforts to aid residents affected by Hurricane Harvey after the storm has caused significant damage since making landfall along the Texas Coast on Friday.
The deployment is a part of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, which can mobilize local resources for statewide use in large-scale emergencies.
Red Oak deployed with firefighters from DFW Airport, Cleburne, Little Elm and Somervell County at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Waxahachie was requested to respond and headed south at about 6 p.m. on Monday.
Waxahachie Fire Department Battalion Chief John Rodgers said the team was initially assigned to structural protection in and around Conroe. However, shortly before heading out, they were reassigned to aid residents in Dickinson, near Galveston Bay. He noted that Dickinson is one of the hardest hit areas.
“They told us to be self-sufficient for 72 hours, which means that it is going to be pretty tragic. It is going to be major flooding. We have to survive on our own, which means bringing our own food, water, fuel, and sleeping arrangements — the whole gambit,” Rogers said. “We really don’t know what to expect when we get there.”
The team is taking a flat bottom boat, a rescue boat, a squad truck and a fire engine. Making up the team are Rodgers, Lt. Trey Moon, Pump Engineer Joey Dawson, Pump Engineer Matt Rodgers, Pump Engineer Jason Eubanks and Firefighter Josh Altom.
“We have got divers, medics, officers, engine bosses and team leaders. We have got kind of a mix of all different skill sets,” Rodgers said. “We have got all the training and we are well prepared.”
Red Oak Team
Red Oak Deputy Fire Chief Ben Blanton stated that firefighters are currently staging in Eagle Pass and have been assigned to do structural protection in the affected areas.
“What they will do varies from day to day. That could be anywhere from rescues to searching houses to a number of things that could come up,” Blanton said. “That crew should be down there for a week, and around midweek we should evaluate to see if we need to send additional crews down there to relieve those crews.”
Blanton said the members of the department that went to south Texas include Capt. Brandon Nichols, driver engineer Jared Ussery, firefighter Zack Jones and firefighter Eric Bradley.
According to the National Weather Service, Harvey has brought over 20 inches of rain to portions of southeast Texas since Thursday night. The forward motion with Harvey has stalled. Due to this slow motion, another 15-25 inches of rainfall is expected through Thursday. Storm totals in some locations may approach 50 inches.
“I think that it is a great thing that we can provide that aid to people of the south down there,” Blanton stated. “I think that there will be more resources going down there in the days to come.”
Blanton added Red Oak Fire Chief Eric Thompson is the area coordinator for TIFMAS and he is working on coordinating resources from all over the northern part of the state to provide assistance in that area.
Ways to Help
Ellis County Emergency Management Coordinator Stephanie Parker stated that there are several ways that residents can help those who have been affected by Harvey.
“This is going to be a very long term disaster. This is going to be months and months and years of recovery. So there is going to be a need for donations and volunteers for a long period of time,” Parker said. “Right now I know that the City of Dallas is opening up a mega shelter. It does not open until tomorrow (Tuesday) morning but it is contingent on volunteers. They are desperate for volunteers. Preferably trained volunteers but they will take anybody at this point with no criminal record.”
Parker directs people to call 2-1-1 to find how they can volunteer and how they can make a donation.
Parker also stated that Ellis County does not currently have any plan in place to provide shelters, only options to donate resources.
“We just had a meeting with all of our officials, all of our cities, emergency management, fire departments, police departments, DPS and TxDOT at the courthouse,” Parker stated. “ The meeting was to find out what assets are being shipped down there, what is still left here and what we need to do in the future with the rain coming and also with I-35 and I-45 as evacuation routes to keep them open and flowing. Right now we are preparing for evacuees heading through our county to head north to Dallas.”
According to the City of Dallas website, those looking to donate resources can send items to the Dallas County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster member, Trusted World. Clothing in good condition, toiletries and hygiene products, and non-perishable foods will be accepted. The Trusted World drop off location will be 15660 N. Dallas Parkway in Dallas. The donations center will be open daily 3 – 8 p.m., until further notice.
Some of the new items requested by VOAD include,
• Warm ups for men, women, children and infants
• Pillows, pillow cases and blankets
• Flip flops for showers
• Towels and wash cloths
• Toiletries/Hygiene products
• Baby formula and baby wipes, bottles, diapers
• Graco Pack n’ Plays for babies to sleep in
Financial gifts can be made through the American Red Cross by texting ‘HARVEY’ to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Information can also be found by calling 1-800-Red-Cross or by going online to the website at www.redcross.org.
Also, anyone traveling to DFW from the Southern Texas Coast needing information on shelters is directed to call 2-1-1.
A step that residents can take to aid first responders in the event of an emergency in the future is to register with the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry program.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website, this registry is free and tells emergency responders about people that might require additional assistance during the times of an emergency event. Registering does not guarantee that a person will receive specific service during an emergency. Available services vary by community. The registry can be found online at https://STEAR.dps.texas.gov.